Good Baggage: How Your Difficult Childhood Prepared You for Healthy Relationships – Ike Miller

Good Baggage: How Your Difficult Childhood Prepared You for Healthy Relationships by Ike Miller
Published by Baker Publishing Group, Baker Books on September 26, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Baggage has gotten a bad rap. We think it's all bad. We think it makes us less likely to have good, healthy relationships today. But baggage isn't just the bad stuff that happened to us in the past. It's the lessons we've taken from the pain we carry. It's how what we've been through has actually made us stronger and more capable than we imagine. And it's how we're going to make our current relationships work.

Far from minimizing past pain, pastor Ike Miller shows you how to go through the baggage you carry from a difficult childhood and pull out the good stuff. The intentionality you've developed. The empathy you've gained. The trust you value so highly. Miller shares from his own past in a dysfunctional family impacted by alcoholism and divorce, and his present as part of a healthy and loving family, to illustrate how to stop letting your past sabotage your present.

You'll find no platitudes or pat answers here. Rather, you'll discover untapped riches of experience and knowledge you already have that can make your relationships thrive and change the course of your life and legacy.

Pastor Ike Miller challenges his readers to think of the benefits their emotional baggage can bring to their adult lives, rather than just focusing on the harmful elements. He shares his personal story throughout this book, showing how he has been able to grow and change, recognizing dysfunctional patterns and exchanging them for better coping skills. This book feels like a conversation with a caring friend, and it will be especially helpful for people who feel overwhelmed by dense, academic books about trauma. Miller shares a lot of great counseling information in simple, accessible terms, illustrating his points with heartfelt personal stories. He also shares spiritual reflections and encouragement from the Bible.

Miller writes about some difficult episodes from his upbringing, and he reflects on ways that false beliefs from his childhood have affected his relationships, especially when it comes to leadership, marriage, and parenting. His honesty will help people process their own issues at a deeper level, especially since he provides so much understanding and grace. Some books about trauma make too many excuses for people, attributing all of their bad choices to the painful conditions of their lives, while other books emphasize everything people should do better, causing them to feel discouraged and ashamed when they feel stuck. Miller avoids both of these extremes, validating the reasons why you’re still struggling while also inviting you towards peace, wholeness, and better relationship skills.

Good Baggage: How Your Difficult Childhood Prepared You for Healthy Relationships covers a lot of important issues, such as understanding codependency, creating healthy boundaries, and relinquishing a false sense of responsibility for other people’s problems or reactions to you. Miller also covers topics that get less attention, such as the instinct to lie out of self-protection. He shares practical advice for how to make changes, and he encourages people to recognize the positive elements of their baggage, like the passion it gives them to have healthier relationships than they witnessed growing up. Also, even though this book focuses on dysfunctional home backgrounds, many of the general principles will also apply to other forms of childhood adversity.

Good Baggage is a great book for Christians who are looking for an accessible, practical, and encouraging book about dealing with emotional baggage from childhood. Ike Miller is a vulnerable and encouraging guide throughout this book, helping people feel less alone and pointing them towards paths of healing. I wish that Miller had more fully integrated the psychology elements and biblical reflections, since I often felt like he was switching back and forth between them, but I am impressed with this book as a whole and would definitely recommend it to the intended audience and their support systems.